Unique views of Miner's Needle
Barkley Basin is one of the most beautiful areas of the Superstition Mountains. It may not have the most rugged topography, but it's vast, open, and full of lush desert vegetation. The crinkles caused by the washes cutting through the basin are enough to keep the terrain interesting, and during the spring, its colors come alive with wildflowers. In an effort to gain an overhead view of this amazing and peaceful area, I studied my maps a bit and came up with this route. It can be done as a moderate out and back hike, with time to soak in the views, or it can be made into a strenuous, several hour loop, including a ridgeline traverse and a steep scramble down a vegetation-choked canyon. Either way, it's worth a visit at some point.
The hike begins at the Peralta Trailhead, following the Dutchman trail over the first ridge and into Barkley Basin. In the morning this portion of the trail is a bit annoying, as you will be facing the sun the entire time. Continue past the Coffee Flat junction, around 2.8 miles, and push up to Miners Summit, which is about 4.4 miles into the hike. Turn right onto the Whiskey Springs Trail, which is obviously much less traveled then the Dutchman. The trail climbs for just a bit and then dips down into a ravine, crossing it and ascending the other side on a smooth rock section. The trail contours here and then crosses the ravine again and arrives at a saddle, right at the top of the long decent into Whiskey Springs Canyon at about mile 4.8. This is where you will depart the trail. Turn right off trail and head up, picking through the sparsely scattered cacti and other prickly things. There are some spots where the vegetation thickens, but it never gets too bad. The peak will soon come into view; stay to the west of it as you head up the hill. Soon you will be at the top. Stop here and rest, as the views are phenomenal, particularly the overhead view of Miner's Needle. The massive Coffee Flat Mountains jut out to the east, towering over Coffee Flats, and Barkley Basin spans directly below, spilling into Gold Canyon. Of course, Weaver's Needle shoots up to the east, providing a frame for Superstition Peak 5057 with Miner's Needle as the left side of the frame. Turn around here for a moderate 10.2 mile hike. If you desire more, however, then continue east on the ridge.
The hike here becomes more difficult, as it is a rocky ridgeline with several jagged peaks. There is not much of a route, just keep on going. If you can't get over a peak, then stay on the north side of the ridge. The south side of the ridge is mostly a sheer cliff. The ridge consistently loses elevation until you finally bottom out at a saddle. Directly ahead, the Coffee Flat Mountains tower above you. It's mighty tempting! I didn't feel like it this particular day, as it was hot and cloudless and I was about halfway through my water already. To the left is Whiskey Springs Canyon. Heading down this direction may be the best option, as you would get to enjoy the moist, cool riparian area for a lunch break before returning on the Whiskey Springs Trail. To the right, Whitlow Canyon drops steeply away from the saddle. Because I wanted a proper loop and some more adventure, this was the option I selected.
The decent into Whitlow Canyon is mighty steep with lots of loose scree. My trekking poles were invaluable in this section. The key here is to make switchbacks so as not to tumble or surf from the steepness (although you will still do both). As the bottom of the canyon starts to close in, travel on the mellow ridge on creek right is much easier than the vegetation-choked creekbed. The ridge ends and drops you off into the canyon, and you may have to cross a couple times, but you will always end up on creek-right. Near where the walls jagged walls close in, you may spot a couple cairns to guide you, but they don't really help that much. When the canyon finally levels out, hop in the creekbed. It's about a mile of creekbed walking and hopping over some boulders before the reaching the junction with the Coffee Flat Trail. Turn right here and follow the Coffee Flat Trail and Dutchman Trail back to the trailhead for a total distance of 12.7 miles.
Although I described the entire loop here, once you enter Whitlow Canyon, the effort vs reward ratio depletes greatly. Like I mentioned before, a loop utilizing Whiskey Springs Canyon may be more sensible than Whitlow Canyon. Whatever you decide to do, the first peak and the ridge section are worth the hike.
This hike is best done on a cool cloudy day. Every bit of it is exposed to the sun at all times of the day. Bring plenty of water. I drank a gallon on my hike. Enjoy!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.